I spent the past weekend with a couple neither of whom are my biological relatives. The wife's father and my father are longtime best friends. When I was growing up my family sometimes vacationed with the wife's family. Her parents are my brother's Godparents. When I became very ill while my mom was fighting leukemia, and my father couldn't care for me because he was both working and caring for my mom, he took me to Florida to stay with the wife's parents because there was no one he trusted as much to take care of his sick child. A few summers ago, shortly after they were married, the couple agreed to babysit me (even though at fourteen I was too old to need a babysitter) when my parents took a no-kids vacation. It aounds insane for newlyweds to take in a fourteen-year-old, and it probably was, but they were desperate for money. My parents took similar vacations the next two summers, and I stayed with the couple both times. My cyber-friend Rebecca began referring to this couple as the Pseudos, as in my pseudo-aunt and uncle. I now usually refer to them as such, and for ease of reference will do so here.
Because this is a semi-public forum and the subjects of this post will almost certainly read it at some point, I cannot be as open as I might otherwise be. Still, I'm not, for the most part, known for displaying much reserve in my writing. What would be the point of suddenly changing courses now? I will, as is usual, write things as I have observed them to be. The chips, if any, may fall wherever they fall.
The Pseudos have been with me through some of my life's more eventful times, and I have been with them from very early in their marriage. I've known Pseudo-Aunt since shortly after I was born. I met Pseudo-Uncle the day before their wedding. I attended their wedding and even played violin during part of the ceremony. I am loathe to mention that I was very nearly called into service as a replacement flower girl when the originally designated one broke out with chicken pox about forty-eight hours before the wedding. The dress intended for the seven-year-old first-string flowere girl would have fit me with the need of only the most minor of alterations. It was only through my quick thinking (my good friend's chubby little sister had just worn in another wedding a dress that fit perfectly into the Pseudos' color scheme) that Pseudo-Uncle's other young niece was able to be suitably attired in order to stand in as the flower girl. When he wishes to annoy me, Pseudo-Uncle loves to beat the proverbial dead mare and drone on about what a lovely fourteen-year-old flower girl I would have been.
The very first summer I spent with the Pseudos happened just before my brother and I were to fly east to attend a tennis camp operated by my uncle, who is a university tennis coach. Since we were ten, the combined Christmas birthday gift this uncle and his wife had given us was free tuition to his tennis camp. It was to be a three-week session. Because my parents' vacation planned for the same time was to last closer to four weeks, the plan was for my brother and me to spend a week with my aunt and uncle in addition to the three weeks at tennis camp. Just a week or so before we were to depart for tennis camp, my uncle called and rescinded my half of the invitation. He (my uncle) had experienced some sort of an epiphany, which suddenly made it clear to him that no matter how well he taught me to play tennis, my size was incompatible with the ability to succeed at the higher levels of competitive tennis. All those years years I thought my uncle had been teaching us tennis because he was a nice guy and so that we could have fun. In retrospect, however, he had other plans, and I no longer literally or figuratively fit into them. I admit that I was most gratified when my brother delivered the ultimate diss to this uncle by choosing baseball over tennis in high school.
My parents had non-refundable pre-paid expenses for a Eurpoean vacation, and no place for me to stay. I normally would have stayed with my Uncle Steve and Aunt Heather, but they, too, planned to be on vacation for much of that same time. I made my own arrangements to stay with the family of a friend, but my parents didn't feel right about burdening a random family, who most likely had no idea just what they were getting into by agreeing to be responsible for me for almost a month. Then someone -- I'm not sure who it was -- came up with the brilliant plan of foisting me off on a couple of newlyweds, who were so lacking in means that they went along with it.
On the same day that my brother caught a plane to the east coast for a month of fun and relative freedom, I caught another plane to the peculiar and desolate State of the Deseret otherwise known as Utah. The place where I would be staying was not far from my grandparents' home, but I wouldn't have agreed to stay with my paternal grandparents even if they'd agreed to take me in, which they most definitely would not have. The last time my grandparents took care of me -- when I was two -- solidified their notion that I was the spawn of Satan.
I spotted Pseudo-Uncle easily and pointed him out to the airline employee who escorted me through the airport to the baggage claim area. pseudo-uncle is six feet three inches tall with a slender yet muscular build, dark blond hair, bright blue eyes, skin that tans in the summer, and is, overall, rather striking and not easy to miss even in a crowd of Nordic-descended Mormons. He was probably the man that every female on the plane secretly wished was there to meet her.
I had been at his wedding less than three months earlier, but Pseudo-Uncle seemed to have no recollection whatsoever of every having laid eyes on me. His face held an expression of discontent or annoyance. I wondered if he was irritated by the interruption of his afternoon for a trip to to the airport, or if he was bothered more by the month-long interruption of his honeymoon. He spoke briefly with the airline employee, showing her his ID, then shook my hand and said, "I'm Scott," but didn't smile or make any attempt at conversation. As I spotted my suitcase and moved to retrieve it from the rotating carousel, he reached past me and lifted it. Even carrying the heavy suitcase, he walked to his car at a pace that I had to jog to maintain. He put my suitcase into his trunk, then opened the door and got into his car. I opened his front passenger door, but there were several books on the seat, and he didn't offer to move them. I can remember thinking that he probably had left them there on purpose. I closed the door, opened the rear door, and got into the back seat. He turned his radio on after he started the car. I noticed him looking at me in his rearview mirror a few times, but he still didn't speak.
Except for my Uncle Steve and his wife and kids, everyone on my dad's side of the family hates me, so I was used to being places where I wasn't necessarily welcome, but I had been with my parents anytime I visited the homes of my paternal relatives. I used my fingers to wipe away the tears that escaped despite my resolve not to cry. If he noticed, Scott gave no indication of it.
TO BE cONTINUED